| Actor Danny Denzongpa accepts the award from Sikkim chief minister Pawan Chamling. Picture by Ashit Rai
Gangtok, July 14: Sikkim shone bright on Bhanu Jayanti as stars kept their date with the Sikkim Samman awards.
Some 100 Nepali-speaking citizens were felicitated for their contributions in various fields at the national level today at a ceremony that was organised by the Sikkim Democratic Front government, through the culture and heritage department.
Sikkim’s own sons of the soil Danny Denzongpa and Bhaichung Bhutia were among those who were conferred the award by the chief minister, Pawan Chamling, at Chintan Bhawan.
The event saw the “largest-ever” gathering of luminaries from the fields of politics, sports, films, music, art, literature, medicine and culture.
Those who could not make it to Chintan Bhawan were not left behind. Gangtok’s only cable service provider, Nayuma, aired the programme live.
The endless list of celebrities included Miss India-Earth Jyoti Brahmin, actor Mala Sinha, film director Tulsi Ghimirey, music director Ranjit Gazmer, mountaineers Nawang Gombu and Jamling Tenzing Norgay, footballer Chandan Singh and boxer Jaslal Pradhan. Former chief ministers and politicians from the state and the neighbouring hills joined them. Though former Sikkim chief minister Nar Bahadur Bhandari was not present to receive the award, his wife, D. K. Bhandari, a former MP, was honoured for her ensuring that the Nepali language was included in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution.
Chamling honoured the celebrities with a shawl, a citation and a souvenir of the sammilan.
Also felicitated with the awards were Sahitya Akademi and Lalit Kala awardees and national award winners.
Professor K. Satchinanda, the Sahitya Akademi secretary, handed over the awards.
Visibly moved by the honour, Mala Sinha said she would “never forget the love shown to her”. Addressing Chamling as “bhai (brother)”, she said she would “pray to god for all his plans for the state to be a success”.
Danny also heaped praise on the initiative of the SDF government. “Such awards from my home state had never come by prior to the SDF government. First there was the Sikkim state award and then the recommendation made for the Padma Shree. All these happened only after Mr Chamling assumed power in the state and I am indebted to the chief minister,” he said.
Miss India Jyoti Brahmin said the felicitation was a great honour and that she felt proud to be a Nepali and would take further the cause of the community in future.
Bhaichung and Jamling spoke on the same lines. “At times, the country does not recognise its own athletes and sports stars. But the initiative of the government is a welcome step,” Jamling said.
Three volumes of a study series were also released by eminent personalities, including environmentalist Sunita Narain, writer Kamleshwar and cultural expert Dr Kapila Vatsyanan.
The study series is on geography, environment and culture.
At today’s function, Sahitya Akademi Award winners and recipients of other national awards were also handed over their first token grant of monthly pensions.
It had been announced that Sahitya Akademi award winners would be given a monthly pension of Rs 1000. Padma Vibhusan awardees would be given Rs 5,000 and awardees of Ashok Chakra and Padma Shree, Rs 2,000.
Chamling said the function was symbolic of Sikkim striving for prosperity. “We are encouraged by your joining us,” he said.
The poet’s birth anniversary was also celebrated in Kalimpong. The programmes included poetry writing and recitation contests. High scorers in this year’s ICSE and ISC exams were also given awards.